White House officials have leaked another executive order to come from President Donald Trump that would undo most of former President Obama's work on preventing climate change. The administration claims it is designed to protect American jobs, but the climate clearly gets second billing. It would also potentially refocus the regulatory framework to benefit jobs in the coal industry over new, clean energy jobs. It's particularly worrisome that an Obama-era initiative called the Clean Power Plan will possibly get the axe under Trump's forthcoming "energy independence" executive order. And that could just the beginning.
The White House is presenting the issue as an either-or option. Either it's jobs and the economy or the climate — as opposed to investing in new clean energy initiatives that might spur economic growth, as Obama hoped. "I think the President has been very clear that he is not going to pursue climate change policies that put the US economy at risk. It is very simple," a White House official briefed on the forthcoming order told CNN.
The order will rescind six of Obama's prior orders to fight climate change and put the Clean Power Plan under review. According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan is a roadmap to reduce carbon pollution from power plants — the main source of such contamination. It's the first time that this has ever been done at a national level, and it provides the states with the tools needed to meet what the EPA calls "achievable standards." The EPA sets the levels and states have some flexibility to achieve them. By 2030, the plan would fully be in place and carbon pollution would be 32 percent below 2005 levels.
That's the biggest part of Obama's climate legacy that could go. But there's more. According to Vox, the executive orders that Trump would rescind cover "limits on methane leaks, a moratorium on federal coal leasing, and the use of the social cost of carbon to guide government actions." Also possibly going is limits on oil and gas drilling rules.
Of course the order could be challenged in court. The Hill reported that environmental activists will likely challenge Trump's order in court, but not immediately. First the changes would need to be made according to the executive order. Plus, there's already a lawsuit going about the Clean Power Plan after fossil fuel companies began challenging it.
Regardless of court intervention, some climate policies are still safe — for now. What is staying at least temporarily, it would seem, is the Paris climate deal, that commits countries around the world to meeting a reduction in greenhouse gases to prevent climate change. There's an internal debate in the administration as to whether or not that will ultimately go, as Rex Tillerson is worried about having diplomatic problems from withdrawing. He seemed to hint at his confirmation hearing that he preferred staying in the climate deal.
No matter what the White House says, the flight against climate change is now taking the back seat to the fossil fuel industry. For Trump, it's not about creating jobs — it's about dismantling regulations. And the Clean Power Plan is just one of example of that.